Saturday, October 1, 2022

Katherine Center - Things You Save in a Fire

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she's seen her fair share of them, and she's excellent at dealing with other people's tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it's an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.
The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie's old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren't exactly thrilled to have a "lady" on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn't seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can't think about that. Because she doesn't fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don't date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping...but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she's worked so hard to be taken seriously?
Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

Comment: This is the second book by Katherine Center I tried. I felt meh about the other one I've read but I had better hopes for this one, which seems to have a better average rating in most reviews sites.

In this book we meet Cassie Hanwell, a very competent firefighter in Austin, who has done her best to be on top of her job and she is well respected for it. In fact, the story begins as Cassie is about to receive a award for merit but what she didn't expect is that someone she hates would be delivering the prize and what she does next certainly affects her career.
Using the excuse she must help her mother, she moves to Massachusetts and starts working at a new - but ran down and not as welcoming fire station - even though that means she will start from the bottom. Cassie doesn't mind it because she knows being a firefighter is in her blood, but things seem even harder when the rookie proves to be someone she can't ignore, much less the attraction she feels for him. But Cassie has been hurt in the past, she has closed herself off from love, will this be the moment when she is finally ready to let go?

It was certainly a lot more appealing to be in Cassie's head than it had been with the heroine from the other book I had read by this author. In here, I was much more interested in what Cassie was thinking and going through, meaning her personality was way more appealing and likable and that made me feel like reading this book was an easier experience.

I still believe that third person narrator would be a better fit for this author's work because the stories are primarily on romance and some thoughts/behaviors can seem rather childish when the heroine narrates things. For instance, Cassie discovers she is developing feelings for the rookie, her new co worker but even though Cassie says it, I don't think it's obvious, because we don't see things happen, we only get to know about them by how Cassie lives through them. It feels too one-sided and to be honest, the "voice" of the characters isn't always that special to make an impact. At least, it doesn't feel like it.

Cassie has some inner demons to overcome. She has had a bad day when she turned 16 because that was the day her mother abandoned her and her father to live with someone else. Something else happened to her, which we only know close to the end of the book but that it doesn't take a genius to guess anyway, and these events have shaped her decisions and choices, including why she felt like being a worthy firefighter and paramedic. I did like Cassie's personality and how she reacted to trauma, I think some details didn't translate as well, such as why she avoided romantic entanglements, but that is one aspect I think third person narrator would have a better choice to tell this story.

The plot is simple, Cassie relocates to help her mother and because she needs to put distance between herself and public opinion in Austin. As the story slowly moves on, we get to see a string reason why Cassie's mother asked for help was so they could be physically closer and that might help them reconnect. When we learn about her mothers' side of things, more than one element becomes clear and I must say there were some emotional passages to go through while they learned to become a mother and daughter again.

At work, Cassie is facing some expected hazing...although I must assume this is cultural or just lack of my own knowledge; are firefighters that prone to hazing and joking around and pranks in their time while not in an active case? It seems that this was mentioned so often, in so many chapters, I started to consider all this as being rather juvenile behavior and it is hard to imagine professionals having that much time just to prank each other... 

This does affect Cassie's thoughts on her surroundings and such but it gets to a point when someone starts threatening her. I thought this was a bit far fetched, especially when we learn who was doing it, and even worse when we know why, but it made the plot get to a key moment. Some details then felt rushed, especially regarding Cassie's feelings for Owen (the rookie) and how she shares them in a very unlikely scenario but whatever... The end and the epilogue were high on the emotions and had some exaggerated and cheesy scenes, but overall I can accept them.

As for the romance...I must say it wasn't the best detail about this story, they do share funny and poignant moments but there are some moments where it felt like a very cliched rom-com and I don't think some of the issues Cassie had to deal with, emotionally speaking, should have been treated as superficially... besides, if Cassie is the only narrator, it was hard to trust her on why Owen was that amazing, after all her descriptions were always a bit biased.

All in all, this was a much better story for me, yes, and I did like the elements which I felt were done well (Cassie's love for her job and her competence seemed very well researched and realistic), so I'm considering if I should try another book by this author...
Grade: 7/10

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